Friday, May 01, 2020

echoes through the forest

[An elderly neighbour has had a ton of firewood dumped on the living room floor.]
Then Fjällborg changed tack completely, becoming fretful.
   "Not that there's anything wrong in that," he said in Arvid Backlund's defence.
   Martinsson stopped laughing.
   "At least he can manage at home on his own now," Fjällborg said vehemently. "Of course he could have his firewood in the woodshed like everyone else. Then go out there one morning, slip and break his leg. At his age. You never come back from hospital when you're that old. You just get shoved off into a nursing home. It's easy to laugh when you're young and healthy."
   He slammed the cast-iron pan with the fried dumpling onto the table.
   "Time to eat!"
   They put lumps of butter and heaps of lingonberry preserve and fried pork on their plates. Piled the butter and preserve and meat onto the slices of dumpling. Ate without talking.
   He's scared, Martinsson thought. (p. 26)

It is late September. The sun is setting on the other side of the lake. Hjalmar Krekula has carried the outboard motor indoors for his father. It is lying on the kitchen table, on a layer of newspapers. Johannes Svarvare usually dismantles it and gives it a service for Isak Krekula. The carburettor is blocked as usual.
    Svarvare messes about with the motor. Isak serves him some vodka, by way of thanks. Tore Krekula's wife is at a Tupperware party, so he is having dinner with his parents. Hjalmar is there as well. There is no room to swing a cat round in the kitchen. The table is piled high with plates of hamburgers and macaroni in white sauce alongside engine casing, screwdrivers, keys, a sheath knife, a plastic bottle with a long tube containing oil for the gearbox, new spark plugs and a tin of petrol in which the filter will be soaked. (pp. 167-168)

[From Mt Luossavaara...]  They stopped and looked down at Kiruna, spread out below them. The iron mine with its grey terraces forming the background to the town. The Ädnamvaara massif to the north-west, with its typically pyramid-shaped peaks. The wind generators on the site of the abandoned Viscaria copper mine. The church faced with spruce cladding painted Falun red, designed to evoke a Lappish hut. The town hall with its iconic black clock tower -- an iron shell with protruding decorations. It always reminded Martinsson of mountain birches in winter, or a flock of reindeer horns. The horseshoe-shaped railway depot with its little red-painted workers' cottages. The tower blocks in Gruvvägen and Högalidsgatan.
   "Look at that! You can see the Kebenkaise massif today."
   He pointed to the light blue mountain range in the north-west.
   "I can never work out which one is Keb," he said. "I'm told it's not the one the looks the highest."
   She pointed. He leaned towards her to see what she was pointing at.
   "That's Tuolpagorni," she said. "The peak with the little crater. And the one next to it, to the right, is Kebne." (p. 197)

How he and Farmor and Martinsson would sit at Farmor's place stemming lingonberries. They each have a tray. Under one edge of the tray is a folded newspaper. The sound of the hard berries rolling across the tray and down towards the side, where the stemmed ones gather. Pulling off the stems and leaves, they nudge the trimmed berries so that they roll down the sloping tray. Martinsson finds spiders and other creepy-crawlies that must be rescued and released outdoors. (p. 302)

The water is gurgling beneath the bows, which smell of tar. The sun glitters like trolling-spoons in the ripples.  (p. 315)

Åsa Larsson,  Till dess din vrede upphör (2008), translated by Laurie Thompson as Until Thy Wrath Be Past (2011).

Last night the time came to read the Kiruna-based crime novel I picked up a few months ago. So after some six hours of concentrated immersion in wet snow, slush, and ice (most of the action takes place in late spring), shameful wartime secrets, messy relationships, and all the ripe ornamentation of modern Scandi Noir (which relishes wandering as far as possible from the crime investigation at its centre, and even relishes leaving gaps in its wake) it's time to draw breath.

Until Thy Wrath Be Past is halfway towards abandoning the crime genre altogether and directly addressing age, guilt, loss, life and death, nature and spirituality, the topics of many other Swedish novels that don't get translated for an international audience. Its most vivid characters are also the most positive: Wilma, the 17-year-old girl who dies on the first page, and Krister Eriksson, the dog handler in the mint-green tracksuit with the terribly burnt face.

[With her great-grandmother]
It is the middle of August. Blueberry time*. Simon Kyrö is driving along a forest track. Wilma Persson is in the passenger seat. Anni Autio is in the back, her walker beside her. This is the place they were looking for. Blueberries and lingonberries growing right by the track. Anni wriggles out of the car unaided. Simon lifts out her walker and her basket. It is a lovely day. The sun is shining, and the heat is squeezing threads of attractive scent from the forest.
   "I haven't been here for years," Anni says.
   Simon gives her a worried look. Of course not. How on earth could she have negotiated any kind of rough terrain with her walker?
   "Would you like us to come with you?" he says. "I can carry your basket."
   "Just leave her," Wilma says, and Anni emits a loud expletive in Tornedalen Finnish, shooing him away as if his interpolation were a fly buzzing around her. Wilma knows. Anni needs to be alone in the silence. If she finds it impossible to move around and does not manage to pick a single blueberry, that will not matter. She can sit down on a rock and just be herself.
   "We'll come back and collect you in three hours," Wilma says.
   Then she turns to Simon with a cheeky smile.
   "I know how you and I can figure out how to spend the time."
   Simon's face turns as red as a beetroot.
   "Stop it," he says, glancing over at Anni.
   Wilma laughs.
   "Anni's nearly eighty. She's given birth to five children. Do you think she's forgotten what people can get up to when they're on their own?"
   "I haven't forgotten," Anni says. "But stop embarrassing him."
   "Make sure you don't die while we're away," Wilma says chirpily before she and Simon get back into the car and drive off.
   They do not go far. The car stops. Wilma sticks her head out of the window and shouts so loudly that her voice echoes through the forest, "Mind you, if you do die, it's a fantastic day and place for it." (pp. 55-56)

* [NB - bilberries (blåbär in Swedish)]

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